Tuesday’s are normally slow in the NFL. Players are off which means there’s no practice nor media availability. However, the blockbuster trade for Jimmy Garoppolo made this Tuesday an eventful welcome for the San Francisco 49ers new quarterback.
Garoppolo’s arrival to team headquarters in the afternoon was highlighted by an introductory press conference alongside John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. All we know at this point is that the former New England Patriots quarterback is unlikely to start for the 49ers in Week 9 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Now we enter the wait and see period, which adds to the intrigue of the team’s final eight games. With that, here’s this week’s mailbag.
Joe Staley (orbital fracture) will be out until at least after the 49ers bye in Week 11. That means his earliest return date would be at home against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 12. However, it’s very possible that the left tackle will be out longer than that.
Trent Brown (concussion) is still in the league’s protocol. It’s realistic that he returns this weekend against the Cardinals, but that’s still up in the air.
Of note, the 49ers signed offensive lineman Bryce Harris on Wednesday, who could be a candidate to start in Staley's place.
I don’t even think the 49ers know when Garoppolo is going to start yet. There are probably a few factors that will play into that decision-making process. First, he’ll have to get comfortable with Shanahan’s system. It’s not just the playbook, but also the verbiage that’s completely new to Garoppolo.
Secondly, San Francisco could realistically decide that they will wait until Staley is healthy before playing Garoppolo. The 49ers will want to put their new quarterback in the greatest situation to be successful. At 0-8, there’s zero rush to get him on the field.
"I'm taking it one day at a time," Shanahan said. "I can't promise you that he'll play this week. I can't promise that he'll play this year. I know that we have a guy that we're excited about and I know has the ability to help this team in the future."
It will be a fluid situation moving forward.
"We didn't bring Jimmy here to save our season," Shanahan said on Wednesday. "We brought him here to make our organization better."
All that said, unless the 49ers make a roster move at quarterback, Garoppolo will be active on Sunday as C.J. Beathard's backup. That means he will be only one play away from being forced into game action.
I’ll tackle both of these at the same time. They’re both valid questions now that the 49ers have a potential solution at quarterback. Should the 49ers decide that Garoppolo is the long-term answer at QB (both Lynch and Shanahan confirmed they’re hoping that’s the case), it allows the team to avoid a few headaches. San Francisco won’t have to worry about which NFL quarterbacks will hit the free-agent market or which college prospects will declare for the draft.
Instead, the 49ers will be able to shift their focus elsewhere, both in free agency and in the 2018 NFL Draft. San Francisco is likely to have a top 10 pick in the draft and still has a second-rounder that it acquired last year from the New Orleans Saints. Free agency wise, the 49ers will have plenty of cap space even after a potential long-term deal with Garoppolo.
There will be no shortage of options at the 49ers disposal to fill other holes on the roster.
Briefly on the second question, the targeted positions in the draft will largely be decided upon which holes remain unfilled after free agency. Even then, you can bet that Lynch and Co. will take the best player available, especially in the early rounds.
The 49ers have been lucky to have a player with Eric Reid’s versatility amid this injury-plagued roster. San Francisco was genuinely excited about Reid’s potential as a linebacker. Now that Jimmie Ward is on Injured Reserve, Shanahan suggested that the team may move Reid back to strong safety with Jaquiskit Tartt moving to free safety.
We still don’t know where Reid will play against the Cardinals on Sunday. The 49ers could decide that he’s still needed at linebacker since they’re comfortable with Adrian Colbert at free safety. It’s all to be determined.
Shanahan noted that there’s a chance “Ronnie” returns this week. As of now, there’s been no word though about Ronald Blair III being brought back to the roster. It’s something to keep an eye on.